Nice is underrated. It’s not outstanding, it’s not spectacular, and it doesn’t break any molds. But there’s nothing wrong with nice, really. That’s Chasing Perfect to a T.
Fool’s Gold is a small town with a quirk: It has a shortage of men. Without men, nature can’t exactly do its work and the town council is desperate to expand its economy into male-dominated industries. So they hire Charity Jones, a city planner who will, hopefully, lure some much needed men into the town. Charity finds herself charmed by the town and its residents and, after a nomadic childhood, looks forward to establishing roots. What she does not count on is Josh Golden.
Two years after a divorce and the crash that stymied his cycling career, Josh has returned to his hometown. He plays the role of local playboy and flits about in an apparent state of perpetual bliss. But inside his heart bleeds at his inability to resume racing, and seeks constant distraction. When the mayor asks him to squire about the new city planner, he accedes immediately.
Now, Chasing Perfect could have been an absolute disaster. The premise of a man shortage, the multitude of subplots, some highly unlikely coincidences, and a large supporting cast could have conspired mightily against the reader. But instead it works marvellously, mainly because the characters and town are so nice. Ms. Mallery approaches the town denizens and subplots with a light touch that you could interpret as superficial or underwritten, but that I prefer to see as snapshots of small town life.
Josh and Charity are, if not outstanding characters, a sympathetic couple to read about. It helps immensely that their friendship develops right alongside the hormonal tangos, and there aren’t any outrageous misunderstandings or inconsistencies that mar the fabric of their relationship. My only real complaint is that Charity makes a major and rather groundless assumption about Josh that proves irritating towards the end. But hey, no one’s perfect, and they’re both so normal and human, and so, well, nice that it’s not a biggie. Here is a couple who convinced me they are independent and self-sufficient enough to exist without the other, but would really prefer not to. And I find that immensely satisfying.
I’ve had very mixed experiences with Susan Mallery, so I confess I breathed a sigh of relief when I realized I could wholeheartedly recommend the first book in the Fool’s Gold series. Don’t expect fireworks. But it’s certainly a darn nice way to pass the time.